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mountain climber

The mind fascinates me. In the book called, “The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking”, the author, Oliver Burkeman, dives into what he refers to as our our “goal crazy” society. Sighting a number of studies he has determined that people create goals in the name of planning for the future and productivity, but in reality, it is a means to remove the unsettling feeling of uncertainty.

Goals can actually hinder success. In 1996 fifteen climbers died on Mount Everest within a twenty-four period of time—the highest death toll in the mountain’s history. Climbers know that timing is crucial to success on Everest. If climbers don’t make the peak by a pre-arranged time, they must turn around to avoid running out of oxygen or attempting the dangerous climb down in the dark. Hours after the time to turn back passed, people were still climbing to the summit. Why? As more feelings of anxiety increased as the climbers climbed, the more they held onto their goal to summit to help cover the feelings of uncertainty they were feeling at the moment. To feel better in the present, they chose to put their lives in jeopardy.

What a compelling reason to come to our mats! The more we get comfortable with the feelings of uncertainty, the more likely we can make sound choices for ourselves. The more we sit in discomfort, the more we find our voice of reason.

Here is another example of why goals can be limiting. Have you ever waited for a cab in New York City in the rain? It is a challenge to find a cab when it rains and the logical conclusion is that it is because the cabs are in higher demand. In actuality, based on research by economist Colin Camerer, though the demand for cabs increases, the supply of cabs shrinks. The cab drivers set a goal to make double the amount they owe for renting the cab each day they work. When it rains, the cab drivers make that money more quickly and head home early!

In this example, the goal setting actually limited their potential.

Now it is time to apply these lessons on your mat. When you are practicing, dig deep. Get uncomfortable. Breathe. When you have the opportunity, put yourself in a place of uncertainty. Try an arm balance, try a head or handstand. Take a chance. Begin to be OK with those feelings of the unknown. That is where the opportunity for growth and living big exist and are waiting.

Come to your mat. Give up your goals. Embrace life’s uncertainty.

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I am nearly done leading an 8 week program for middle school aged girls in self-empowerment and yoga. It has been an incredible experience. The Girl Power program teaches so many important lessons in a very short time.

1. Just as hunger pains tell us to eat and thirst tells us we need a drink, feelings tells us information about our authentic self that we need to address.

2. Our thoughts alone do not give us enough information to make good choices. We must align our feelings with our thoughts to get the most accurate signals to make the choices that are best for our true self.

3. Self care has to do with how we treat our self. Do we pay enough attention to how we are treating our self on a regular basis? Not paying attention to self care hurts our ability to handle stress.

4. Yoga. It helps to bring our attention to our bodies, feelings and thoughts. First we find this connection on our mats through asana practice then we take it off our mats into our daily life to live more authentically.

5. Media is very influential in how we see ourselves. It is meant to make us feel lacking. The way media portrays women is harmful to our self.

6. The path to happiness starts with being authentic.

Yesterday I read the girl’s journal entries that were in the format of a letter to their bodies. I got goose bumps. I felt such a thrill seeing that the messages that we’ve been working on were sinking in and that they have the tools to treat their true self with more kindness and understanding.

It was an honor to lead this program and teach this material, but the real honor is being able to be a part of these girl’s life path and to have given them real tools and skills to leave them with so that their life’s journey doesn’t get cluttered with baggage from bad choices. They have the tools to live authentically.

D Sharon Pruitt

D Sharon Pruitt

In trying to come up with meaningful lessons that kids can take off their mats and into their lives, I recently bought a great book called 10 Minute Life Lessons for Kids. The lessons are divided into categories such as Things We Value, Potential and Self-Worth, Love and Kindness and Attitude to name a few. When applying ideas from other sources into my class, I always try to find a yoga slant.

I decided to give my students a lesson on attitude. I strongly believe that what we think about and what we say influences our perspective and the outcome of different situations. This idea was not one that I was taught as a child but really would have helped me growing up.

I first made sure that none of the children had food allergies. I gave each student a Smartie (I chose this type of candy because it dissolves slowly but quickly enough to move onto other things in class when we finished this lesson). The kids were not allowed to eat it until I gave them the go ahead. We all then got into chair pose or a standing squat with backs against the wall. The idea behind this exercise was that while our legs started to burn from our position, we were to suck on the candy and try to keep our thoughts on the sweetness versus the pain.

There will always be difficulties in life but by training ourselves to focus on the sweetness in life even when things are hard we will create a more fulfilling and happier life in the long run.

Photo by H. Koppdelaney

Having just finished teaching the first Mom and Baby class of a new session, it is apparent that the moms that made the conscious effort to pack up their babies from 6 weeks to 6 months and drag car seats and diaper bags through today’s cold rain to take class, had more than just stretching on their minds.

When baby enters the family, all of the sudden your intentions come second to your child’s needs. But in truth those needs don’t disappear. One of those needs is feeling a sense of community. Becoming a mom is like a caterpillar becoming a butterfly. We have nine months of physical metamorphosis while our baby grows and then upon delivery we are permanently transformed into “mom”. The mental changes are not even fathomed until that baby is in your arms.  We must make an instantaneous mental adjustment as well. Going from working on projects with deadlines, we now find an endless day of watching our child for signs that signal their need for sleep, for food or for diaper changes. The sense of gratification we once achieved from completed work is substituted with the delayed gratification of raising a well-adjusted person. We went from lunches with friends and colleagues to picking at leftover Cheerios while watching the endless cycle of laundry begin again.

Mothers need a moment. They need time to connect to their new bodies, new responsibilities and new dreams. Without stopping to put that time in the schedule, it is easy to run on autopilot. Moms need to stop and be mindful and to listen to their hearts. They need to connect with others who are in the same situation trying to make sense of this new life experience.

My mom and baby yoga class is a fusion of baby massage, yoga and strengthening poses for mom, and the blessing of taking that moment—time to connect with other moms with babies of the same age, time to connect with the voice inside that may sound different. It is a time to connect with one’s body, one’s baby and one’s breath.

From the book Mindfulness: Mother with Mindfulness, Compassion and Grace by Denise Roy:

Today, take some alone time. Even if it’s only five minutes.

• Light a candle. Go for a walk. Sit outside.

• Lock yourself in the bathroom.

• Create a little zone of quiet.

• Congratulate yourself for taking this time. It’s an act of love.

• Now imagine that life is like an ocean.

• At the surface, there can also be a lot of turbulence. Life’s busyness and demands and ups and downs can be like rough waves that whirl around us.

• Now imagine that deep down in the ocean, thirty or forty feet below the surface, is a place of constant stillness.

• Take a breath, and drop down into this place of quiet and calm.

As you keep practicing taking this alone time, it will get easier to practice in the midst of the chaos of a day. You will be able to drop into that place of stillness wherever you are.

My daughter is a worrier. She can focus on an anxiety to the point that it becomes a huge ugly monster that takes a lot of effort to make disappear. Last year, Kindergarten, that monster reared its head on the school bus and it caused us all great stress each morning for about 3 weeks.

We have come up with many worry banishing techniques.

• Write a list of all the things that make you happy.
When a worry pops into your head, quickly turn to one of those happy inducing thoughts or activities.
• Discuss the worry only at one point during the day.
The worry loses its power if you must postpone thinking about it until later.
• Focus on your breath.
Yoga breathing – Feel your stomach rise and fall. Coming back to the breath when a worry pops into your head calms the nervous system and creates mental peace.

Practice some yoga.

The following asanas help remove anxiety:

Single Leg Raise – Lie down straight on your back. Raise the right leg up straight and as far as possible while inhaling. Lower it back to original position exhaling. Then repeat the same with left leg. Next hold your feet with opposite hand while in the raised position. Take a few breaths while in this position and then switch.

Double Leg Raise – Raise both the legs together with knees straight and bottom on the floor. Repeat ten times. Inhale while raising legs and exhale while lowering legs.

Cobra Pose – Lie flat on your stomach with your palms besides your shoulders. Hold your feet together while pointing toes, push your head and chest gently off the ground while lifting your head up fully. Inhale while pushing up and exhale on the way back.

Child Pose – Sit with knees spread and feet touching. Lean forward until your chest and forehead are resting onto the floor and arms are outstretched in front of you.

Sage Twist – Sit on floor with both legs straight in front of you. Bend your left leg towards your chest. Rotate your body toward your left knee. Wrap your right arm around the left knee with the knee positioned in the crook of the right elbow. Clasp your hands if comfortable and keep your back straight.

A book that I highly recommend that my daughter used to help work through her Kindergarten fears was What to Do When You Worry Too Much: A Kid’s Guide to Overcoming Anxiety.

Change, such as a new school year, always creates some anxiety. Yoga is a great tool to help conquer those fears. Start a new experience with a spirit of adventure by using yoga to squash those butterflies (and sometimes those monsters too).

1. Yoga Helps Children Learn About Their Own Strength

Through yoga children can learn how to fall asleep more easily by themselves by following a sequence of poses that helps quiet the nervous system.

Parents can also use guided relaxation books to ease their children into a more peaceful place before bed. On the occasion when my daughter has had more trouble than usual falling asleep (this child is just like me in the sleep department—head hits the pillow and lights out), I have found reading a page from Ready… Set… R.E.L.A.X. allows her body to let go of any tensions she may be holding onto and drift off to sleep without a problem.

Children learn about the strength of their minds.

Through yoga, one learns that what you think about makes a big impact in one’s life. Using affirmations during class helps children gravitate to the positive imagery that will help them succeed in life. Shouting “I am strong!” in warrior 1 and “I am brave!” in warrior 2 is a fun way that begins the connection between mind and body.

2. Yoga Develops Trust in Oneself

In class I often stress that each student is unique and that their yoga practice will look different than the person next to them. Each student must listen to what their own bodies are telling them. Asking your children how their bodies feel in different poses helps them to connect to their bodies and their feelings which is an awareness that is need to develop trust in themselves.

3. Yoga Teaches Positive Ways to Deal with Garbage

In class yesterday my friend who was teaching told us the story “The Law of Garbage Trucks” by David Pollay. A taxi driver almost gets into a car accident and smiles at the person who almost caused the accident. The passenger on board was surprised with his driver’s reaction. The driver explained that everyone walks around with garbage—full of frustration, anger and disappointment. As their garbage piles up, they need a place to dump it and will dump it on you if you let them. Don’t take it personally, smile, wave and move on. You will be happier because you did.

Yoga teaches the skills to let it go. Breath. Meditate. Move your body in ways that release your own built up garbage.

4. Yoga Is An Amazing Form of Exercise

Not all children are competitive. Yoga can be both a group or individual sport. It is as challenging as one makes it and the challenges continue throughout one’s life. Yoga is an activity that continues for as long as one likes. Yoga doesn’t require a team to participate although doing yoga in a class environment does connect people together. Yoga is a great formof strength training.

5. Yoga Can Be Used Throughout One’s Life

Yoga is beneficial throughout one’s life. Learning yoga at young age gives one an advantage. It can help release tension during final exams and stressful times in life; it also helps eleviate sadness. Yoga helps during parenting by rejuvinating and giving a sense of peace in a hectic time, yoga keeps the body strong and supple as one gets older ensuring an active life one’s whole life.

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by Łukasz Strachanowski

It is hard for children to navigate through their energy levels. As adults we have different coping strategies in place (or at least we should by now!) to deal with drops in daily energy or excessive energy moments. I try to avoid certain food for lunch that will make feel sluggish like pasta, Chinese food or any meal that is heavy on carbs. I take long deep breaths to fill up on fresh oxygen. I exercise or nap depending on what I think I need. I also use coffee for boosting low energy moments. I am a self-confessed coffee addict.

On the flip side, when I have moments when I feel like I am going to bounce of walls, I run. I play outside with my children. I do some head or hand stands. I use the energy constructively.

Children don’t often listen to their bodies. When that energy slump or high hits, it is often when we see disruptive behavior (like sibling fighting) or tantrums. Yoga is a great tool to help children find outlets for their different energy levels.

Here a list of my favorite yoga poses and fun activities to help kids calm down:

Poses:
seated spinal twist
pigeon
fish
reclined twist
corpse

Activities:

Mandala coloring: Mandalas are balanced visual designs that are used as meditation to create internal harmony. While coloring the design in a quiet atmosphere, thoughts come and go resulting in a meditative state—  a clarity and calmness. Besides the coloring books I love using, I have also found websites online that allow you to download mandalas for free.

I have also found some great sand mandalas here.

Books I recommend that help children relax:

Ready… Set… R.E.L.A.X by Jeffrey Allen
Relax Kids:Aladdin’s Magic Carpet by Margaret Viagas
101 Relaxation Games for Children by Allison Bartl

Please let me know if you have ways to help the children in your life calm down and find peace.

Namaste 🙂





Current Classes:

MIDTOWN ATHLETIC CLUB

Mondays:
6-7:15am Power Vinyasa (H)

Thursdays:
6-7am Power Vinyasa

Story Time Yoga
1-1:45pm

Sundays:
5-7 year olds
9:45-10:30am
8-11 year olds
10:45-11:30am

STUDIO MOVE!

Wednesdays:
10:30-11:30 Power Vinyasa

Fridays:
Yoga for Athletes
9-10am

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